Potsdam (German pronunciation: [ˈpɔtsdam], Lower Sorbian Podstupim) is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg. It directly borders the German capital Berlin and is part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, 24 kilometres (15 miles) southwest of Berlin’s city center.
Potsdam has several claims to national and international notability. In Germany, it had a similar status that Windsor has in the United Kingdom: it was the residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser, until 1918. Around the city there are a series of interconnected lakes and unique cultural landmarks, in particular the parks and palaces of Sanssouci, the largest World Heritage Site in Germany. The Potsdam Conference, the major post-World War II conference between the victorious Allies, was held at another palace in the area, the Cecilienhof.
Babelsberg, in the south-eastern part of Potsdam, was a major film production studio before the war and has enjoyed increased success as a major center of European film production since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Filmstudio Babelsberg is the oldest large-scale film studio in the world.
Potsdam developed into a centre of science in Germany from the 19th century. Today, there are three public colleges, the University of Potsdam and more than 30 research institutes in the city.
The name «Potsdam» originally seems to have been «Poztupimi» (see the History section). A common theory is that it derives from an old West Slavonic term meaning «beneath the oaks», i.e., the corrupted «pod dubmi/dubimi» (‘pod’=»beneath, ‘dub’=»oak»). However some question this explanation.
The area was formed from a series of large moraines left after the last glacial period. Today, the city is three-quarters green space, with just a quarter as urban area. There are about 20 lakes and rivers in and around Potsdam, such as the Havel, the Griebnitzsee, Templiner See, Tiefer See, Jungfernsee, Teltowkanal, Heiliger See and the Sacrower See. The highest point is the 114-metre (374 ft) high Kleiner Ravensberg.
Potsdam is divided into seven historic city districts and nine new Ortsteile (villages), which joined the city in 2003. The appearances of the city districts are quite different. The districts in the north and in the centre consist mainly of historical buildings, the south of the city is dominated by larger areas of newer buildings.
Development of Population since 1875 within the Actual Boundaries (Blue Line: Population; Dotted Line: Comparison to Population Development of Brandenburg state; Grey Background: Time of Nazi rule; Red Background:
The area around Potsdam shows occupancy since the Bronze Age and was part of Magna Germania as described by Tacitus. After the migrations, Slavs moved in and Potsdam was probably founded after the 7th century as a settlement of the Heveller centred on a castle. It was first mentioned in a document in 993AD as Poztupimi, when Emperor Otto III gifted the territory to the Quedlinburg Abbey, then led by his aunt Matilda. By 1317, it was mentioned as a small town. It gained its town charter in 1345. In 1573, it was still a small market town of 2,000 inhabitants. Potsdam lost nearly half of its population due to the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648).
A continuous Hohenzollern possession since 1415, Potsdam became prominent, when it was chosen in 1660 as the hunting residence of Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg, the core of the powerful state that later became the Kingdom of Prussia. It also housed Prussian barracks.
After the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Potsdam became a centre of European immigration. Its religious freedom attracted people from France (Huguenots), Russia, the Netherlands and Bohemia. The edict accelerated population growth and economic recovery.
Later, the city became a full residence of the Prussian royal family. The majestic buildings of the royal residences were built mainly during the reign of Frederick the Great. One of these is the Sanssouci Palace (French: «without cares», by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, 1744), famed for its formal gardens and Rococo interiors. Other royal residences include the New Palace and the Orangery.
In 1815, at the formation of the Province of Brandenburg, Potsdam became the provincial capital until 1918, however, interrupted and succeeded by Berlin as provincial capital between 1827 and 1843, and after 1918. The province comprised two governorates named after their capitals Potsdam and Frankfurt (Oder).